Osteoporosis is a brittle bone disease characterized by an abnormal loss of bone tissue leading to fragile porous bones. When bones lose density, they are prone to fractures even with minimal trauma and from lifting and bending impacts. The common sites for bone loss are spine, hips and wrists. Osteoporosis is most common in women, especially post menopause, but it can also affect men as they age. Major causes of this disease are an undernourished diet low in calcium and vitamin D and lack of exercise.
Exercise, at any age, helps in building and maintaining bone density. Osteoporosis can be prevented by a combination of certain nutrients (calcium and vitamin D) from a well balanced diet and a regular exercise regime started early in life. However, after adulthood also it is not too late to start. Weight bearing exercises stimulate bone formation and retain calcium in the bones that bear the load. During weight bearing exercises, the force of muscles pulling against bones stimulate the bone building process thus strengthening that bone. It is important to note that bone strengthening is site specific, that is if you weight train your legs, the bones of the legs only will strengthen and if you load your upper body with weight exercises, you will strengthen the related bones only. Exercising increases balance, coordination and muscle strength, which decreases the likelihood of falls in the elderly.
Also read: Healthy Foods for Bones
At present, there is no known cure for osteoporosis but medicinal treatment combined with an exercise regime can slow down and even reverse its effect. Weight bearing exercises are the most effective in the treatment of osteoporosis but certain exercises may be harmful in advanced osteoporosis. Thus, a physician’s approval is warranted prior to beginning any exercise routine.
Exercise Prescription for Osteoporosis
A) Aerobic Exercise:
Mode: Walking, Cycling, aquatic exercises (exercises in the swimming pool).
Intensity: 40% to 70% of HRR (Heart Rate Reserve)
Frequency: 3 to 5 days a week.
Duration: 20 to 60 minutes, continuous or intermittent.
B) Resistance Training:
Weight training for all the major joints as well as affected bones should be done for twice or thrice a week. Two to three sets of each exercise and 8 to 10 repetitions for every set are recommended. Intensity will vary between individuals and their respective case history.
Specific exercises focusing on balance and coordination should also be included. Functional exercises that mimic activities of daily living (chair sit and stand, vigorous walking) should be performed for two to five days a week.
C) Flexibility Training:
Stretching exercises should be performed 5 to 7 days a week. Static stretches (holding a position gently) are recommended.
Also read: Eat this to prevent osteoporosis
D) Special Considerations:
- Explosive movements and high impact loading exercises such as jumping, sprinting, running, jogging should not be performed
- Patients severely limited by pain should not exercise and must consult a doctor
- Excessive forward bending and twisting of the spine is contraindicated as it increases the risk of spinal fracture
- Daily activities such as sitting and bending forward to pick up objects can lead to spinal fractures in advanced osteoporosis
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